Sensory Overload on Long Journeys
Sensory Overload on Long Journeys
Travel

5 Coping Strategies for Sensory Overload on Long Journeys

Ever been on a school trip or a coach full of strangers where the air conditioning isn’t working, strong smells are coming from the child in front of you, 30 conversations are happening at once and the driver thinks they are racing for the world championship?

It’s hard enough for most people to focus with bright lights and loud noises all happening at once. But when you suffer from sensory processing issues or Sensory Processing Disorder as it’s medically known, it’s good to know that there’s some techniques out there that can help ease the distractions of sensory stimuli. And, that’s true even if you’re the driver and have to focus on the road.

So let’s take a look at some simple coping strategies for sensory overload on those long journeys!

What Are the Signs of Sensory Overload?

When you’re driving for several hours or more, your senses tend to become heightened. This is because you are constantly reacting to external stimuli, such as sights and sounds, which your brain encodes as memories – this is known as sensory overload.

Sensory overload can cause a common symptom such as feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression in some people, as well as the more obvious sensory processing difficulties. These vary from person to person and can depend on other medical conditions too. So do note not every coping strategy will work for you. But, it’s worth a try nonetheless!

Coping strategies for too much sensory stimulation like self-soothing techniques (such as listening to music or reading) can help reduce these negative effects of sensory overload on long journeys. These strategies also help you return to a normal state of mind when you’re finished with the journey or your trip ends.

1. Self-Soothing Techniques

Self-soothing techniques are a simple way to reduce the negative effects of sensory overload. There are many different ways you could use self-soothing techniques, such as listening to music or reading, which help create an internal focus on something else while your senses become more efficient. The best way to find what works for you is by experimenting with different types of self-soothing techniques.

Some people might find it helpful to use these strategies in conjunction with other coping strategies and sensory experiences – like cognitive coping strategies – which we’ll discuss next.

2. Cognitive Coping Strategies

Another way to cope with sensory overload on long journeys is through cognitive coping strategies. You can use cognitive strategies like deep breathing and reframing your thoughts to help relieve stress. These strategies help you return to a normal state of mind when you’re finished with the journey or your trip ends.

You can also use cognitive coping strategies to focus on your surroundings, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. For instance, instead of focusing on how many hours until you arrive at your destination, focus on the people around you in the car – this helps bring back your sense of presence and reality without taking yourself out of it.

3. Focus on Your Breathing

It’s also important to focus on your breathing. Breath is an effective way of calming someone down, decreasing their heart rate and blood pressure, and stimulating their vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the brain stem to the abdomen and controls a number of bodily functions, including digestion and respiration.

Breathing exercises can help you calm your body down when it is reacting negatively to stimuli by stimulating your vagus nerve. Another coping strategy for sensory overload is shifting your focus from negative thoughts to positive thoughts.

This helps you reduce anxiety by giving you something more positive in which you can invest your attention and energy. When you start focusing on positive things, your body starts producing endorphins that make you feel happy and relaxed.

4. Eat Well and Stay Hydrated

Eating well and staying hydrated is an important part of coping strategies for sensory overload on long journeys. Eating a good meal before driving can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Being properly hydrated will also help you maintain a normal state of mind, as well as avoid the negative effects of dehydration (such as headaches and fatigue).

As well, getting some sleep can help prevent stress and anxiety from getting out of control. Some people find it helpful to use a sleep aid that induces deep sleep before driving, so they’re not too groggily alert when they start their trip.

Additionally, listening to music or reading can help distract you from unwanted thoughts. If your mind is filled with negative thoughts or worries about your upcoming journey, it can be overwhelming and difficult to focus on driving safely. Think of it as a sensory diet, if you will, where you’re reducing your stimuli to a couple of specific focuses.

5. Keep Your Mind Occupied

Many people find that a good self-soothing technique for sensory overload is listening to music or reading. These are effective because they require little effort and provide temporary relief from the negative effects of sensory overload. It’s important to keep your mind occupied when you’re in a state of intense stress or high anxiety.

You can often engage the sensory diet by focusing on something mindless, like a TV show, book, or game. Sometimes it helps to just turn off your mind and focus on something else entirely. In addition to these strategies, cognitive coping strategies can also help reduce the negative effects of sensory overload.

For example, you could write out a list of tasks that you need to accomplish before returning home or create a plan for what you will do when you get there (i.e., talk with family members who are waiting for you).

Don’t Drive or Travel When You’re Tired or Hungry

Staying alert is an important part of coping with sensory overload. This means getting a good night’s sleep, eating well-balanced meals, and avoiding driving when you are tired or hungry.

If you drive when you are tired or hungry, your mind will be more fragile and your reaction times may be slower. This can lead to dangerous situations on the road.

Stick to Simple Strategies First Time

Give some of these coping strategies a try on your next trip and be surprised how relaxed you’ll feel at the end. By sticking to the basics, you can move on to some more intense techniques like meditation when these become second nature!

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Neurodadversity
30-Something Millennial with ADHD and suspected Autistic and Dyspraxic. Thought leader behind this website. Big visions of a better future for everyone, but forgets where he is half the time.Loves Rugby, his kids, and anything silly. Hates U2 and Marmite.

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